Organisers of the month-old Occupy Edinburgh camp have been accused of allowing protesters to be physically intimidated by its “security team”, while some debates were steered towards criticism of “Jewish bankers”.
Female protesters were made to feel unsafe by “scary middle-aged men” and the St Andrew Square camp is being run by “testosterone and cheap alcohol-fuelled” males, it is claimed.
The allegations emerged after one Edinburgh University student spoke out about her experiences after leaving the camp in disgust.
Writing on a blog, Kate Harris said she was subject to intimidation and any dissenting views were shut down. Her views were echoed by a number of other protesters.
The Occupy Edinburgh camp has strenuously denied the claims, insisting that female members of the camp are looked after and treated no differently to men.
The camp, which last week moved from the centre to the edge of St Andrew Square to allow festive stalls to be erected, has escaped the major incidents that have affected other anti-capitalism camps. In Glasgow, a female activist was allegedly raped while the camp was at George Square. It has since moved to a new site at Kelvingrove.In New York last week, riot police dragged protesters from their camp in Wall Street and arrested 150 people.
On her blog, Harris wrote: “Within five minutes of starting our meeting, a man from the ‘security team’ asked us what we were doing, criticised us for coming in and trying to change things without having camped there (the irony being that we don’t feel comfortable or safe enough to camp), and was, basically, very intimidating.
She claimed a man at the camp had said that he thought feminism was an evil created by ‘Jewish bankers’. She added: “People have said that …women have been told that they are not allowed to talk about the [alleged] rape at Occupy Glasgow.”
Harris claimed female members of the camp had been left to do the washing up after the camp’s communal meals and could not take part in debates. She said: “The kitchen team is, according to people on the Facebook group, ALL-WOMEN, or the vast majority women, and thus can’t contribute to the most important meetings because they’re at 6pm, when they’re ‘washing up’.”
Another poster, named Colin, posted: “There is too much ‘testosterone and cheap alcohol-fuelled’ male energy around the camp, and it’s become an example of how not to occupy.”
Other bloggers took issue with the camp apparently deleting criticisms and concerns raised on the Occupy Edinburgh Facebook site. In response, Occupy Edinburgh has insisted there is no discrimination against women, that it welcomes open debate, and that its own security is in place to protect the protesters.
Spokeswoman Kim Grant said: “There are a number of mistruths which have been posted on that website, I would say the majority of them, and we have asked that she [the author] would at least remove those from the website.
“I’ve been here since the beginning, along with at least ten other women who feel safe and secure..
“As for the kitchen team, my dinner for the last four nights has been cooked by a man and there are many men who contribute to the cleaning.”
The security team were volunteers, she added, who were there “to make sure I and other women, and the men, feel safe on camp, 24 hours a day”.